Monthly Archives: May 2014

Solo Games Part I

Last nights game was the first of an experiment. I am running each of my players through a solo game. The idea behind this exercise is to allow development of the character outside of the group dynamic, develop personal plot points and getting one on one face time with the GM. I asked each player to provide me with a sentence or two plot line they would like me to develop. If this works out, and all my players enjoy it, I will make this an annual event.

Bruce was first up and his one liner was;
“I want to have a mental fight with something trying to posses me, in a psychedelic world.”

The first thing I thought about when thinking about “Psychedelic World” is the old Steve Ditko Dr.  Strange comics. So I let this picture be my inspiration, large green rocks with tendrils spiralling out connecting rocks to one another. The summary of the game was Dorj-Son finds his evening meditations difficult and goes out for a walk. He approaches a bridge where on the other side is dark and foreboding figure. Stepping on the bridge he is mentally attacked by the entity and transported to psychedelic world, where he discovers objects buried in the green dirt of the rocks; a skeleton of a large fish, a glass ball containing fire, and a rock with engraved runes. The only true fight he has is with a giant bird that vanishes in a puff of smoke when defeated, leaving only a single feather behind. As he moves from rock to rock he meets his old Master from the temple and his older brother as a child, who accompany him along the journey. When he finally meets the entity at the end of the trail, who takes the form of a large demonic samurai, Dorj-Son throws the large fish bone at the creature, only to have him say “You throw pieces of yourself at me?”, he then realizes these objects and these people are all fragments of his own mind, broken apart by the first attack and he proceeds to put himself back together, only the entity has the fish bone and issues the famous last words of “Come and get it boy!”, Dorj-Son promptly rolls a critical hit, stuns the entity, takes the fish bone like candy from a baby. Once all the pieces are together he transported back to the bridge in a flash of white light.

Dungeons & Dragons through the decades

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is now on the horizon, the starter boxed set is due July 15, the Players Hand Book on August 19th, the Monster Manual on September 30th and the Dungeon Masters Guide on November 19th. Though I have played primarily HackMaster for the last 10 years, I have managed to play 3E, 4E and Pathfinder at a local Con called GeekFest. I have played every version of this game at some point. I include 0E, also known as Original D&D, the game that descended from the little white box and ended with the Rules Cyclopaedia. I have bought the three core books of all the editions, including the recent reprints of 1E and 2E.

RE: Facebook and Me

Currently I am deleting my old posts on Facebook when I post something new. I am shooting for a sort of Anti-Facebook Facebook experience. My intent is to not have a hisory of my life, but only my last thought. This really has nothing to do with data collection or anonymity, it is simply an experiment in different ways to use Facebook. If you are really interested in my posting history, you can always pop over to G+, I have deleted nothing from there and my G+ posts are a 90% mirror of my Facebook posts.

Before I deleted all my old Facebook posts, I read through them just to see if there was anything I wanted save. I quickly came to the conclusion that no, there is nothing worth saving here. In fact most of my posts for the last few years have been exceedingly boring, very sanitized. Sure I drop the F bomb here and there, but over all my postings have been very……non controversial. Even my responses to others posts have been uninspired. Even when people were posting things to get under the skins of liberals (me), I tended towards being risk adverse. Then I went back to look at this blog and sure enough, same thing. I has been a very long time since I have written anything like my various 10 Commandments posts, found here, here and here.

Essentially, I have been a victim of societal pressure to go along to get along. I have even pigeon holed all my Facebook friends into groups and I know damn well which of those groups of people are the least likely to annoy me, so guess which groups get read every day versus those groups I ready once a month, and then only the first page is skimmed. So then I started wondering if this happens to everyone, so I started reading old posts from different people, especially those whom I disagreed with on a variety of subjects and have had online debates with. Sure enough, over time almost everyone starts self editing themselves. My current theory on this is, we get tired of trolling each other. Over time we stop talking about controversial subjects and we stop responding to people who do post about controversial subjects. Of course on the off occasion we do do engage in these things, they tend to be watered down and non-confrontational.

 

Linux Mint 17 LTS

With the April release of Canonical’s latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, means the next version of Linux Mint, due out this month will also be an LTS release. I like LTS releases, they tend to be better tested and updates are audited more carefully to ensure they do not break things. I try as best I can to stick with the LTS versions and upgrade my OS every 2 years when a new one comes out. Sometimes this does not work out for me and I end up upgrading before the two years is up. For instance this last time around I upgraded mid lap because of Steam.

So two things happened recently, first the Linux Mint 17 Release Candidate (RC) came out, this is sort of a final beta test before the big release later in the month. Second PezWitch ended up having to work today for a few hours. So I was at loose ends for a few hours and decided, what the fuck, better to get the upgrade done now than rather than wait and be competing for download bandwidth. Once the final comes out, a quick “sudo apt-get dist-upgrade” will bring my RC version on par with the final. One of the really nice things about having been a professional Tech for so long, is OS reinstalls are trivial and I was done in under 2 hours.

As a side note, while I was at it, I added a small 100 MB DOS partition to my system and installed FreeDOS on it. I have been doing this on my laptop for years. The original reason was for a fast boot OS I could boot into do something really quick like take a couple of notes or write a memo. DOS boots in like 2 seconds and nothing else even comes close. Over the years I discovered this had other uses, like running out of OS diagnostics, so I decided to add one to my main box as well. I wonder if I still have a Windows 3.1 CD around here somewhere?

Linux Mint Debian Edition

Once again, I decided to give a different linux distro a try just to see how things are progressing along. Currently I am using Linux Mint MATES edition, which is basically Ubuntu minus the Unity desktop. The Linux Mint folks have another version of their distribution, Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), which is not based on Ubuntu, but rather Debian Linux. I liked the idea of this version because it supports what is called “Rolling Upgrades”. What this means is instead of having to reinstall the OS or go through an in place upgrade (which rarely goes well) every time a new version comes out, the “Rolling Upgrade” incrementally updates your packages until you reach parity with the new version. Unfortunately this also means they have a lot less flexibility with the updates they can provide and changes in the one package can break others.

I had many of the same problems with LMDE that I had with CentOS. Many of the things that just simply worked under Ubuntu and her derivatives, did not work at all or required a huge investment of time and energy to resolve. None of the Virtualbox packages in the repositories worked at all, the package from Oracles website worked but was ridiculously slow when running Windows 7 as a guest OS. OpenRPG refused to load giving error messages that indicated the version of python and wxpython were not compatible with the program. The versions of the utilities I use to encrypt folders, encfs and gnome-encfs, would not allow me to import the encrypted folders I already had, the errors I was receiving indicated the fuse package was broken in some way. Fortunately I have a second hard drive I use for these experiments, so I can just put my old one back in when things become too frustrating. Once again, Ubuntu and her derivatives win the day.

Email Archive from 2006

From December 2005 until January 2007 I kept every single personal email I sent and received. I did not keep any spam, but most of the rest of it I did keep, including attachments. I am not sure if this is actually interesting or not, but it is a snapshot of my life in 2006, who I was communicating with and what we were talking about. Keep in mind this was 3 years prior to me setting up a Facebook account and is the only digital account of that time in my life.

December of 2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of this archive, I know this is still a long way off, but I am thinking about what I should do with it. I am thinking of setting up a free blog account somewhere and posting each email on the day I sent or received it so it unfolds more or less the same way it did back in 2006. I will probably have to ask some people if its okay if I post some of this. I have an assortment of things friends sent me, short stories, papers written for college courses and interestingly enough, emails from people who are now dead.

I am open to suggestions.

50 years of basic programming

May 1st was the 50th anniversary of the Basic programming language. In this day and age Basic is considered archaic and nearly useless. However, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s many young coders cut their teeth on Basic, myself included. I took a programming class back in Junior High or perhaps High School, at that time I did not realize it, but I had a real talent for coding. The problem was, the instructor of the class was a bad teacher, I think his name was Mr. Landis, or something like that. You see I could write programs off the top of my head, I could squirt out hundreds of lines of debugged code in just a hour or two. My problem was, I did not do flow charts, I simply sat down and started typing out code. When I handed in my work, he gave me an F because I did not have a flow chart. So the next time, I wrote my program, then did the flow chart from my work. When I turned in my work he gave another F, he said he watched me sit down and write the program, print it out, then do the flow chart. He said I would never be good at this and I should drop out of the class. I did not drop out, but it put into my head that this was not something I would ever do well. Needless to say, I did not take any more classes in High School. When I go into college, I tried taking another class, this time I got caught hacking the time share system used at the college. Fortunately for me, the person who caught me was my friends father, who let me off the hook. This kind of put me off to the whole the thing. Then later aft i got married and was living in Bozeman, I got a Macintosh computer and banged out a few programs  before I joined the Army.

It was actually in the Army where I realized this was something I could do. I worked on three projects while I was in service. First, my friend Ric and I wrote an encryption program. This was an amazing amount of fun and it was the first time collaborated with someone else to write a program. Later, the XO of our Company offhandedly commented that he wished he had an automated way to test if the network work was running properly. It annoyed him that he had to ping all the nodes every couple of hours to test things out. So asked him if he would give me access to the system for a few days and I would see what I could do for him. I built a front end for ping, which while the program was running, would ping all the nodes in the network every few minutes and display a nice picture of the network, marking each node, red, yellow or green depending on the ping packet loss. Finally, there was this old program written in the 80’s for soldiers who were on weight control programs. The program was crude, it could not save and information, it could not print, its interface was outright deplorable. So I asked the 1st Sargent if he wanted me to improve the program and he said go for it. He gave me a week of Army time to make the changes and improve the program I did.

After leaving the Army I went to work for Dell, where once again I had the opportunity to do some coding. I wrote several programs. In one frenzy of coding during this time, I spewed out 5000 lines of functioning code in a week, I out programmed the full time programmer on the team. Unfortunately, programming was a sideline at the time, I would write code for a couple of weeks, then do my real job for several months, before something else came up.

How all this comes around to basic, is virtually all of my programming experience has been with some form of Basic. whether it was DartMouth Basic on those Time share systems in Billings, MacBasic, GWBasic, QBasic, Visual Basic and currently, GamBas, it has all been Basic in one form or another. So while no one really takes the language seriously any more, I personally have a soft spot for the language. So maybe next weekend I will port Hammurabi to GamBas.

10 REM *** CONVERTED FROM THE ORIGINAL FOCAL PROGRAM AND MODIFIED
20 REM *** FOR EDUSYSTEM 70 BY DAVID AHL, DIGITAL
30 REM *** MODIFIED FOR 8K MICROSOFT BASIC BY PETER TURNBULL
80 PRINT "TRY YOUR HAND AT GOVERNING ANCIENT SUMERIA"
85 PRINT "SUCCESSFULLY FOR A 10-YR TERM OF OFFICE.":PRINT
90 REM RANDOMIZE REMOVED
95 D1=0:P1=0
110 Z=0:P=95:S=2800:H=3000:E=H-S
120 Y=3:A=H/Y:I=5:Q=1
210 D=0
215 PRINT:PRINT:PRINT "HAMURABI:  I BEG TO REPORT TO YOU,":Z=Z+1
217 PRINT "IN YEAR"Z","D"PEOPLE STARVED,"I"CAME TO THE CITY."
218 P=P+I
227 IF Q>0 THEN 230
228 P=INT(P/2)
229 PRINT "A HORRIBLE PLAGUE STRUCK!  HALF THE PEOPLE DIED."
230 PRINT "POPULATION IS NOW"P 
232 PRINT "THE CITY NOW OWNS"A"ACRES."
235 PRINT "YOU HARVESTED"Y"BUSHELS PER ACRE."
250 PRINT "RATS ATE"E"BUSHELS."
260 PRINT "YOU NOW HAVE"S"BUSHELS IN STORE.":PRINT
270 IF Z=11 THEN 860
310 C=INT(10*RND(1)):Y=C+17
312 PRINT "LAND IS TRADING AT"Y"BUSHELS PER ACRE."
320 PRINT "HOW MANY ACRES DO YOU WISH TO BUY";
321 INPUT Q:IF Q<0 THEN 850
322 IF Y*Q<=S THEN 330
323 GOSUB 710
324 GOTO 320 
330 IF Q=0 THEN 340
331 A=A+Q:S=S-Y*Q:C=0
334 GOTO 400
340 PRINT "HOW MANY ACRES DO YOU WISH TO SELL";
341 INPUT Q:IF Q<0 THEN 850
342 IF Q<A THEN 350
343 GOSUB 720
344 GOTO 340 
350 A=A-Q:S=S+Y*Q:C=0
400 PRINT
410 PRINT "HOW MANY BUSHELS DO YOU WISH TO FEED YOUR PEOPLE";
411 INPUT Q
412 IF Q<0 THEN 850
418 REM *** TRYING TO USE MORE GRAIN THAN IN THE SILOS?
420 IF Q<=S THEN 430 
421 GOSUB 710
422 GOTO 410 
430 S=S-Q:C=1:PRINT
440 PRINT "HOW MANY ACRES DO YOU WISH TO PLANT WITH SEED";
441 INPUT D:IF D=0 THEN 511
442 IF D<0 THEN 850
444 REM *** TRYING TO PLANT MORE ACRES THAN YOU OWN?
445 IF D<=A THEN 450
446 GOSUB 720
447 GOTO 440
449 REM *** ENOUGH GRAIN FOR SEED?
450 IF INT(D/2)<S THEN 455
452 GOSUB 710
453 GOTO 440 
454 REM *** ENOUGH PEOPLE TO TEND THE CROPS?
455 IF D<10*P THEN 510
460 PRINT "BUT YOU HAVE ONLY"P"PEOPLE TO TEND THE FIELDS. NOW THEN,"
470 GOTO 440
510 S=S-INT(D/2)
511 GOSUB 800
512 REM *** A BOUNTYFULL HARVEST!!
515 Y=C:H=D*Y:E=0
521 GOSUB 800
522 IF INT(C/2)<>C/2 THEN 530
523 REM *** THE RATS ARE RUNNING WILD!!
525 E=INT(S/C)
530 S=S-E+H
531 GOSUB 800
532 REM *** LET'S HAVE SOME BABIES
533 I=INT(C*(20*A+S)/P/100+1)
539 REM *** HOW MANY PEOPLE HAD FULL TUMMIES?
540 C=INT(Q/20)
541 REM *** HORRORS, A 15% CHANCE OF PLAGUE
542 Q=INT(10*(2*RND(1)-.3))
550 IF P<C THEN 210
551 REM *** STARVE ENOUGH FOR IMPEACHMENT?
552 D=P-C:IF D>.45*P THEN 560
553 P1=((Z-1)*P1+D*100/P)/Z
555 P=C:D1=D1+D:GOTO 215
560 PRINT:PRINT "YOU STARVED"D"PEOPLE IN ONE YEAR!!!"
565 PRINT "DUE TO THIS EXTREME MISMANAGEMENT YOU HAVE NOT ONLY"
566 PRINT "BEEN IMPEACHED AND THROWN OUT OF OFFICE BUT YOU HAVE"
567 PRINT "ALSO BEEN DECLARED 'NATIONAL FINK' !!":GOTO 990
710 PRINT "HAMURABI:  THINK AGAIN. YOU HAVE ONLY"
711 PRINT S"BUSHELS OF GRAIN.  NOW THEN,"
712 RETURN 
720 PRINT "HAMURABI:  THINK AGAIN. YOU OWN ONLY"A"ACRES.  NOW THEN,"
730 RETURN
800 C=INT(RND(1)*5)+1
801 RETURN 
850 PRINT:PRINT "HAMURABI:  I CANNOT DO WHAT YOU WISH."
855 PRINT "GET YOURSELF ANOTHER STEWARD!!!!!"
857 GOTO 990
860 PRINT "IN YOUR 10-YEAR TERM OF OFFICE,"P1"PERCENT OF THE"
862 PRINT "POPULATION STARVED PER YEAR ON AVERAGE, I.E., A TOTAL OF"
865 PRINT D1"PEOPLE DIED!!":L=A/P
870 PRINT "YOU STARTED WITH 10 ACRES PER PERSON AND ENDED WITH"
875 PRINT L"ACRES PER PERSON.":PRINT
880 IF P1>33 THEN 565
885 IF L<7 THEN 565
890 IF P1>10 THEN 940
892 IF L<9 THEN 940
895 IF P1>3 THEN 960
896 IF L<10 THEN 960
900 PRINT "A FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE!!!  CHARLEMANGE, DISRAELI, AND"
905 PRINT "JEFFERSON COMBINED COULD NOT HAVE DONE BETTER!":GOTO 990
940 PRINT "YOUR HEAVY-HANDED PERFORMANCE SMACKS OF NERO AND IVAN IV."
945 PRINT "THE PEOPLE (REMAINING) FIND YOU AN UNPLEASANT RULER, AND,"
950 PRINT "FRANKLY, HATE YOUR GUTS!":GOTO 990
960 PRINT "YOUR PERFORMANCE COULD HAVE BEEN SOMEWHAT BETTER, BUT"
965 PRINT "REALLY WASN'T TOO BAD AT ALL. ";
966 PRINT INT(P*.8*RND(1));"PEOPLE WOULD"
970 PRINT "DEARLY LIKE TO SEE YOU ASSASSINATED BUT WE ALL HAVE OUR"
975 PRINT "TRIVIAL PROBLEMS."
990 PRINT:FOR N=1 TO 10:PRINT CHR$(7);:NEXT N
995 PRINT "SO LONG FOR NOW.":PRINT
999 END